Court Cafe Commentary

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Commentary, thoughts and reports shared here are not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive presentation of any of the topics broached. It is hoped that the information here will provoke your thought and, where so moved, your action toward protecting and nurturing children, adolescents and families in Connecticut.

The State as Protector and Guardian

"Children are our greatest resources". How many times have you heard that? Said it? Whether you are a parent, an educator or professional working in the field of child protection or juvenile justice, odds are you believe that statement. Perhaps, you also believe that our state has the "Best Interests" of all our children at heart?

The state is not one person. In relation to child protection and child welfare, "the state" is the people who live in the state and who work for the state legislature, other governing bodies and departments and public/private agencies. The "the state" is also the sum of all legislation and policy, past and present.

The "the state" represents everyone and no one.

As in city and town governments, the state's conglomeration of agencies and departments vie to provide for the needs of the population they are charged to care for - competing for finite resources. In addition to money, other finite resources include knowledge, experience, talents and skills. From top management to rookie front-line worker, the service provided is only as good as the least knowledgeable/skilled worker provides. This is not particular to Connecticut nor a comment on services provided by our state. It just is. No bureaucracy can do more than any one person will/can do. The "state" is a cumbersome parent, at best.

So what can we do? Be aware. Learn. Ask questions. Learn some more. Be aware of your motives. Try new ideas. Teach some. Forgive mistakes, demand improvement. Know who your legislator is and how they vote on legislation. If you don't understand why they voted as they did, ask them. If you're involved with a state department or public/private agency keep asking questions patiently until you understand (not necessarily agree). Be ready to do the work, give the time and take the chances needed to improve how we - all of us - take care of our "greatest resources". ~ JT

The Juvenile Court & the Juvenile Justice System

Why Connecticut Should Return Its Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to Age 18

Connecticut is currently an outlier among the states in treating 16 and 17 year olds as "adults" in its criminal justice system. See Why Raise the Age? as well as the brief linked below.

This brief argues that the state should return its juvenile court jurisdiction to age 18. Brief is available here (pdf file).
Ellen Scalettar, Shelley Geballe, & Charisa Smith, CT Voices for Children

A Systmem of Servies for Girls in Connecticut by Marty Beyer, Ph.D.

The following is taken directly from A System of Services for Girls in Connecticut, by Marty Beyer, Ph.D., December 15, 2005. It is a small excerpt only. The complete paper is available in full in .pdf format online at and

The landscape of Connecticut girls' services is much like the girls themselves: extraordinary strengths coupled with widespread, seemingly insurmountable challenges. Connecticut has islands of excellence in girls' services:

  • A state plan that requires gender-specific services, methods for assuring that every girls' program adheres to approaches that fit girls, and evidence-based family treatment, intensive home-based services and treatment foster care
  • A psychiatric hospital where girls make remarkable gains
  • Residential centers where girls make progress and communication with families improves when there is a good fit between staff and a girl
  • Washington Street girls detention center that has exceptional staff practices and quality of life for girls
  • The involvement of the University of Connecticut that, unlike other such trauma programs nationally, focuses on children in child welfare and juvenile justice for whom recovery requires that clinicians, direct care staff, family, foster/adoptive parents, and school staff change their behavior in response to the continuing effects of trauma on girls
  • Documentation of how behavior management systems do not fit girls and of effective methods for supporting behavior change in girls
  • A collaborative girls network of staff from several government agencies, public and private providers of girls services, and advocates who understand quality individual treatment and the systems elements necessary to support it

Each of these islands is ahead of what other states offer girls.

Yet, desert surrounds the islands of excellence: there is no system of gender specific, strengths-based, trauma-informed, culturally competent, relationship-driven girls' services in Connecticut. In public and private residential and non-residential services, including parole and child welfare, practice lags far behind the islands of excellence. Public and private providers appear to have ignored the benefits of changing staff behavior and continue to struggle with physical and relational aggression between girls, injuries to staff and girls, and use of restraints that have almost been eliminated at Washington Street detention center.1 Providers apparently do not believe that behavior management systems fail with girls, and point systems trigger girls across the state every day.2 Most girls do not receive effective trauma treatment, and when a therapist skillfully helps a girl face the demons of her past, other staff unintentionally sabotage her progress with punitive care guaranteed to trigger traumatized girls.3 The language of caring for girls through relationship informs the state plan, the detention staff training and the network, but girls who desperately need attachment lose relationships with every move (and frequent moves are a built-in feature of programming). The lack of agreement about girls' needs within and across programs is astounding: (cite: Text: Pages 1 & 2, Endnotes: Pages 51-53)

The current crisis in Connecticut over the lack of beds for girls is blamed on the absence of a secure state facility. But it is more accurate to conclude both that (a) the absence of homes for girls with sufficiently intensive services wrapped around them keeps the existing secure and residential programs full of girls, many of whom do not require secure care; and (b) the lack of gender-specific, strengths-based, trauma-informed philosophy, staff training and services in the secure and residential programs makes them ineffective for many girls. With a full array of sufficiently intensive services that did not necessitate the loss of connections as girls progressed into the community within the same gender-specific program, girls' strengths would be built on and girls' needs would be met without the system being too full to admit another girl. (cite: Page 15)

Connecticut Juvenile Delinquency Programs

AAG Reports Dismal Failures at Connecticut Juvenile Training School : September 19, 2002: Press Release: Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and state Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein today released a report of their investigation into conditions at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School.

"This facility is a dismal, unconscionable failure - putting children at real risk and desperately requiring rigorous reform. DCF has repackaged the same old shortcomings in a shiny new $57 million shell. Touted as a state of the art national model, at huge cost to taxpayers, it has fallen short of minimal standards in caring for children committed to its trust," Blumenthal said. "DCF was given a blank check to design and build a model facility that would provide troubled boys with the proper supervision and education - counseling, treatment programs, vocational training, and schooling - necessary to prepare them for returning to the community. The agency missed this mission and continues to fail the children sent to CJTS. Our investigation revealed that the same problems found at Long Lane and Haddam Hills - risk of youth suicide, improper use of restraints, a lack of oversight or long-term planning, inadequate schooling - are equally prevalent at the new facility. CJTS is little more than Long Lane in a new building." View the report (PDF-447KB). cite:

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